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Cheap meals under threat

The following is an excerpt of an article first published in The Star

by Seah Chiang Nee

THE deepening trend of price increases in Singapore appears to be laying siege to the remaining bastion of cheap eating – the small food stall.

I am referring to the thousands of small eating places in neighbourhood coffee shops and hawker centres that traditionally provide cheap meals for the masses.

It is an institution that makes life in one of the most expensive cities in the world more livable.

Mostly run by families or individuals, these stalls dish out, for only a few dollars, some of the most exotic Asian dishes, with diversity unmatched in many other countries.

Even as the cost of living soars, the Singaporean’s daily meal remains within reach of most workers and students – thanks to these hawkers and a system.

For as little as S$3-S$5 (RM7-RM12) a dish, the average Singa porean can have a simple meal quickly every day – and at prices less than in most advanced Western cities.

Recently, a spate of reports indicated that this last bastion of cheap food is under siege by forces trying to push prices higher.

So far, the wall has largely stood firm – and Singaporeans can still have a meal for S$5 or S$6 (RM14) – but parts of it may have been breached.

The first threat is the growing number of corporate-run air-conditioned food courts that sell higher quality food at S$7-$10, (RM17-RM24) and eating into the hawkers’ profits.

These are pulling away professionals and white-collar workers so successfully that a few vendors are tempted to be a little too ambitious – selling food at restaurant prices.

To read the rest of the article, click here.